So you’ve got a course, new offering, or product up your sleeve … but don’t have the funds to work one-on-one with a creative copywriter to dream and draft up that custom sales funnel, launch sequence, and a slew of Facebook ads. Well, you’re in luck because in this post I’m sharing 19 of the best copywriting formulas that copywriters like me use when piecing together copy for creative entrepreneurs.
Because you’re a pretty decent writer, right?
You know you need to tell a story with your words to promote your offering.
You know to draw in your target … but what intros work best? What must-includes need to claim a spot on your sales page? And good grief, what order does it all go in?
Oooh, y’all got me a good one … I can get real nerdy about this. I LOVE a good copywriting formula—not only does it make your work easier, it makes you more efficient.
Now it’s taken me years to get to where I know how and when to use them. Do you HAVE to use a copywriting formula every time you write something? No. Just like an efficient calligrapher has her Hunt 101 nibs and her blue pumpkin nib nearby (Pssst. where my calligraphers at?! You know that’s my background!) she may opt to use a brush pen to create art to digitize for a wedding invitation. Same thing. You have your tools nearby, you know what to use when.
But if I were starting from absolute scratch every time I went to type something, it would have taken me such a long time to get to where I am today! The main thing I find copy formulas to be useful for is helping organize your message. You know when you sit down and feel like it’s fitting an ocean in a teacup? Like you have so much to say and don’t know where to start? This helps you get started and make sense out of all.the.things.
Here’s a moment to take a deep breath and receive the permission to “do less”… ready for it? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every blog post or tweet— you can save time and increase your readership with tested copywriting formulas.
That, my buddy, is a-ok! I’m about to spill the beans on some copywriter best-kept-secrets.
Here are 19 of the best formulas that copywriters like me use when piecing together copy for creative entrepreneurs.
But first, I have two rules-of-thumb:
1. Don’t recreate the wheel
One of the best arguments for outsourcing something like copy is that you’re paying someone for the education they’ve cobbled together over years … and sometimes decades. Sure, it’s just peachy to tackle it yourself, but entrepreneur-life quickly teaches you that it time’s money, honey, and sometimes ya might as well just foot the bill for an expert.
But copywriters gotta make a living too, and aren’t always Walmart prices.
These attention-getting copywriting formulas come from the best-of-the-best: they’re battle-tested, compelling, and just plain work. Plus, copy formulas are uber-productive in my opinion — teach me to shave off time from my day and you’re my friend forever!
Trotting out these copywriting formulas could land you a big productivity boost. Unless you try to use them ALL …
2. The Keep It Simple Rule
I’m about to mic-drop on your Dropbox copywriting file (or Pinterest, or wherever you store learnings) and give you a ton of info.
Can you promise me something?
Keep it simple. If you like some of these? Use ‘em. Try them out in your next email or blog post or funnel. If they don’t work, scrub it. If they do work? Save that formula.
Repeat your winners. Scores of great [copy has] been pulled before it’s begun to payoff. -David Ogilvy
Stick to what you find works for you. Be ruthless about ignoring what doesn’t work.
That’s how you’ll maintain productivity. Ok. Enough chatter. Let’s see those formulas!
Like aviator shades, crisp button-downs, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and good red wine with steak, classics are classic for a reason.
You may have heard of it before, it’s the go-to gateway drug into copywriting formulas, in my opinion.
Here, you twist the knife. Make the problem more pronounced. What if it doesn’t go away, but instead gets worse … grows … increases … eclipses … takes over.
AH! That’s scarier than a Stranger Things Netflix binge.
P | Present your dreamboat client’s problem to her …
A | Poke the bear a little bit by reminding her she wants solved …
S | … and tell her how YOU solve it.
Like florals for spring, this pattern isn’t ~exactly~ groundbreaking … but as mentioned, à la “Africa” by Toto, it’s a classic. It’s basically your word wardrobe’s little black dress.
Almost anything. You can zhush it up for a sales page headline, dress it down for a quick Instagram caption. I mean, get you a formula that can do it all, right? 😉
Here’s a great email from Melanie Duncan about holiday promotions.
When I opened it in October, holiday promotions were a luxury I would get to dreaming up *if/when* I got that magical extra time in my schedule.
But Melanie’s copy QUICKLY twisted the knife and made me realize I gotta get on this — like, yesterday!
I took P-A-S and needed a little more data in there, because I’m one of those rational buyers who will hem and haw and pro and con until I’ve talked myself out of something.
If there isn’t interesting data or facts I can look at to back up WHY I need to think a certain way, I won’t do it.
Interest (with Data
C’est moi. 🙂
I personally like it for product descriptions, services pages, and sales pages, but you could freak what you feel and use it many other spots.
The Hero’s Journey
American writer and scholar Joseph Campbell pieced together this formula, and you’ve seen it play out since ponytail-and-playdate days: Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and beyond. I talk about him a
Sure, you could deep dive into it and make the formula longer, but here’s the gist.
Call to Adventurous Goal
Conflict & Test
Meeting with a Mentor
Nutshell? Next time you write a sales page for your course, write it so your client is the hero, you’re the Dumbledore helping them along the way to reach their goal.
For an example, check out this sales page from StoryBrand, a great marketing resource and perennial favorite podcast.
I love this formula for sales pages, and for emails that introduce your course modules or offerings.
Trade secret: the word “features?” Um, it doesn’t exactly resonate with the emotional part of our brain that navigates purchase power.
D’ya know what does?
We’re wired for survival as humans, so paint a picture about all the benefits someone will have AFTER encountering you and your product.
Birchbox is pretty jam-up on this. When you’re describing me makeup, I’ll be honest, I don’t really care what chemical compounds are involved, and what technology went into the brush. Those are features. I want the benefits. Tell me I’ll be prettier. Here’s a great example:
Awareness-Comprehension-Conviction-Action (aka the WebMD formula)
Do you ever feel funny, and start searching around on WebMD? We’ve all done it, and we all know it’s the WORST way to self-diagnose … you always feel like you have whatever malady popped up!
But in terms of copywriting, the formula’s genius.
Make your reader aware of the problem …
explain how it affects them …
create a desire and conviction in your reader to get it fixed however you’re recommending …
and call them to take action.
If B-A-B is the LBD, P-A-S can be the little white dress — related, but different. This little black dress of copywriting can be squeezed into 140 characters or slung through an entire cart close email series for a launch.
“Here’s your little world, where every day, you face a problem …”
“But, imagine if that problem vanished. Forever.“
“Here’s how to get there.”
Make sense? Describe the target’s gray, cloudy world with that problem, and then position the pot of gold at the end. Courtney Johnson at Rule Breaker’s Club teaches a great free mini-course on this copy tactic on her website!
I plugged before and after copy on my client Jenna’s course launch sales page!
Writing an about page? Never start off with “Hi, I’m ___!” They won’t listen unless you give them a reason to listen.
- What I’ve got for you
- What it’s going to do for ya
- Who I am
- What you need to do now
Best prescribed for? About pages and guest blog posts!
Arguably my fave. Email funnel madness here!
This copy formula arguably lays claim to being my favorite. AIDA is a standard copywriting formula, popping up in TV ads, radio ads, sales pages, and emails for years.
I like it ‘cause it’s versatile.
It works for a 4-part email series, or a 14-part email funnel repeated a few times. It works on a sales page, and it works in a simple tweet.
Here’s another looooong formula, but follow this one for a multi-email funnel for your upcoming course or product launch!
Attention – Tell me the biggest problem you can solve.
Interest – Why should I be interested?
Credibility – Why listen to you?
Prove – Show me. I want to see social proof.
Benefits – Give me a bulleted list.
Scarcity – Tell me why I can only get this for a short time.
Action – What do I do next?
Warn – What happens if I don’t?
Now – Make me take action pronto!
Reader’s Digest Swipe
Reader’s Digest has been around since 1922. Legendary adman John Caples studied up on their approach to see what was included in paragraph one that was so darn addictive. Here’s what he found:
They state the main idea.
They’re few adjectives.
They shock a bit.
This is your best-bet formula for hacking out an SEO-keyword filled blog post first paragraph. Here’s an example:
The Stone Method
The Everything Guide to Writing Copy points out that Bob Stone created this formula for sales letters and direct response ads. It’s still a go-getter gem for launch email funnels and sales page copy!
- Begin with the strongest benefit.
- Expand on that.
- Tell in BIG detail what they’ll get.
- Back it up (I like to use testimonials here!)
- Tell what will happen to them if they don’t act
- Sum up the big benefits
- Give call-to-action
Give Me 5.
One of the biggest parts of copywriting is answering any of the reader’s objections r-i-g-h-t as she begins to ask them to herself. The logical side of the brain is starting to vouch for the emotional side’s purchase decision, so make sure you address these five basic objections she’ll have to buying.
I don’t have the time.
I don’t have enough money.
It won’t work for me.
I don’t believe you.
I don’t really need it.
Bonus points? If you’re writing an end-of-launch sequence email, always, always, ALWAYS include these … and not just on your sales page. These need to get in her inbox, ‘cause they’re important!
Here’s an example from my copywriting services page:
Fast-tracking your launch? This one nurtures then quickly cuts right to the chase.
Picture: Build up the desire by painting a picture.
Promise: Tell me how you’re going to deliver.
Prove: Show me how others trusted you to do this, and it worked.
Push: Get me to commit.
This formula would work so well for almost any copywriting need: email marketing, Facebook ad copy, webinar pitch, blog post, sales page, and more. It’s pretty easy to remember, too!
Related to the Give Me 5 is this trio of thoughts. Brian Clark at Copyblogger — he’s so fantastic, y’all — sums it up well:
Why should I buy from you at all when I understand your competition better than you do, and there’s no difference?
Ouch! Tough love. Answer that, and you’re in bidness!
I’d use this at the beginning of a sales funnel for your new course or product, maybe when you’re introducing the free opt-in or lead-magnet, or maybe the FIRST time you mention your paid offering or course!
I could see this formula being a winner for product descriptions on Etsy, too.
Star: WHAT you’re selling.
Chain: Facts, benefits, reasons, testimonials that lead me to …
Hook: The call to action.
You know those Vegas showgirls with ostrich plumes stitched together to make big fans and they wave them around mesmerizingly? That’s what this is.
Where can you fan dance in your copy?
Likely your email subject lines.
Dress it up, give some pizzazz, and pique interest without explaining everything away!
Classic copywriter Michel Fortin coined this:
Universal Picture Words or Relatable, Descriptive Sentences.
If you’re going to communicate, analogy, story, and anecdote typically buy your way in. Conjuring imagery is a great way to show your target reader that you’d love to be her Valentine!
Here’s some killer descriptive swipe copy from Marie Forleo’s awesome copywriting class.
Finally, I like this one because a lot of times, you gotta sell someone on something they don’t even know they need.
How do you do that? Take them from Oblivious-Apathetic-Thinking-Hurting. It’s a longer spectrum to dance your audience down, but proof that in time, you can take them from not knowing they even had the issue to realizing that they’re starved for the solution.
Alright, friend: how can I help you draft up copy that converts for your next big trick? Comment below—I would love to help you!
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